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Summary

The three Theban plays by Sophocles - Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone - are one of the great landmarks of Western theatre. They tell the story of Oedipus, King of Thebes, who was destined to suffer a terrible fate - to kill his father, marry his mother, and beget children of the incestuous union. He does this unknowingly but still has to suffer terrible consequences, which also tragically affect the next generation.

These three plays were written around 450 BC, with the playwright following the established convention of presenting the story through main characters but using a chorus - sometimes one voice, sometimes more - as an independent commentator that also occasionally participates in the drama. When the audiences of ancient Athens went to the amphitheatres to see the plays, they would have known the basic story of poor Oedipus.

Nevertheless, the power of Sophocles' retelling made the Theban plays deeply horrifying and affecting - and this is still true now, some 2,500 years later. There is also a strong contemporary resonance for us, for in the 20th century the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud famously adopted the story to illustrate his Oedipus complex, which, he argued, was a condition of the unconscious mind in boys - that they want to sleep with their mothers. It is interesting that through the character of the queen, Jocasta, in Oedipus the King, Sophocles states this unequivocally.

Oedipus the King is well known. The other two are less so: Oedipus at Colonus, which deals with his last days, and Antigone, which casts the spotlight on his daughter, who, as part of the accursed blood line, chooses to act in a way she believes is right, whatever the consequences. Yet they are equally powerful and moving.

This audio production, with Jamie Glover as Oedipus and Hayley Atwell as his daughter, Antigone, is a world premiere audio recording of all three plays.

With the authoritative but modern translation by Ian Johnston, specially commissioned new music from the English composer Roger Marsh, and a cast of outstanding actors, this Audible Original presentation of Sophocles' Theban plays will be listened to not once but many times.

©2015 Audible Originals (P)2016 Audible Originals

Critic reviews

"This outstanding full cast, and Roger Marsh's original music, serves Ian Johnston's vigorous verse translation of Sophocles very well. None of the actors can be singled out; they're all marvelous at combining the original declamatory tradition with modern ideas about portraying character and emotion. The result is a moving dramatic experience that is enhanced by, but does not require, a background in the classics. This is a first-rate example not only of why the classics endure, but also of what can be done with the medium of audio." (AudioFile magazine)
"The casting is first rate, as are Ian Johnston's strong, simple lines and the startlingly effective music." (The Times)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Great!

I liked the way the play was transfermed in an audio book!!! Great readrs too!!! Thank you for providing it for free!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr
  • 21-06-16

In the harsh Sophoclean Light

Each time I read (or in this case listen to) Oedipus The King, it grows more devastating. I read it first as a student some 13 years ago and it moved me then despite my tender age. I tought the play when I became a teacher, and renewing my aquaintance with it again at 32, thanks to this excellent production, I find that it has grown even more powerful. You need age and success on your side to truly understand the dreadful implications of this story of a good but proud man brought to ruin by an inescapable destiny. Anyone interested in Theatre or Literature should get this. you don't need a grounding in Greek mythology to enjoy it as most actions are explained by the characters, but be advised it isn't an easy listen. The production values are good and the acting is for the most part excellent; Johnstone's translation is indeed authoritative, but it it sometimes lacks the pithiness of Robert Fagles' translation. this is made up for by the strength and pathos of the main performers, and the occasional clunkiness of the translation is most apparent in the lines of the chorus; watch out for Jonathan Oliver, something about his voice suits his role in the chorus perfectly. I look forward to listening to the two remaining Theban plays, but I think Oedipus will haunt me forever. I've learned to count no man truly happy until he is dead, and you don't forget lessons like that in a hurry.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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well worth a try!

I have only a passing acquaintance with Greek tragedy, but I recommend this as an easy entry into three of its central texts. Oedipus The King works the best in these audio versions - I feel that Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone benefit from the visual scale of the stage - but I really enjoyed all three.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • DaveTT
  • Somerset, UK
  • 04-02-17

Tragic.

Having only known about Oedipus from the medical term "Oedipus Complex", this series of plays about the tragic life of Oedipus and his family reallt explains a lot.
I enjoyed the narration by multiple characters as it helped me visualise the scenes and focus on the story.
I recommend this to anyone who has read or has an interest in Greek history, Greek tragedies or even Shakespeares works such as Macbeth, Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet, as it is in the same vein but from a much earlier time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Surprisingly great

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I really would. I wasn't really paying attention to who was reading this when I bought this I just mainly wanted it to go through Antigonie as I was reading it for a Classical History Drama group and wanted to be able to convey more emotion that I already was into my performance by hearing someones elves interpretation and I was really surprised at how good it was. I'm yet to listen to the others but Antigone is really very good.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Oedipus Plays?

Hearing Hayley Atwell's voice as one of the voices in the performance as she really is a heroine of mine.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The sheer emotion of the speeches due to the fact in a print copy of the book it is written out as a play with very little in the way of stage directions which you would miss out by just reading it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Thought provoking

A good interpretation and very worth the experience of listening. It certainly makes you think.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very well performed

This dramatisation of the Oedipus plays is very well performed. It really has the drama of ancient Greek theatre. I also really liked the musical interludes and the way the plays were split up. The only frustrating thing was the really short chapters that sometimes change mid dialogue. I couldn't find a good place to pause.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

As if I was listening to a play at The Globe

Where does The Oedipus Plays rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It does a good job at what it is.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I am entertained.

Any additional comments?

This is easy to listen and it's told like a tale and with the voice acting, it feels like it is a play. Because it is. The stories themselves are quite interesting and of the age it was set.

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Interesting take on the ancients

Very entertaining performance. Well acted/read and mercifully without any distracting music. Recommended for anyone interested in the period or the Greek ancient dramatic form.

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  • Dan
  • UK
  • 01-01-18

Very good

Performance not so good in the first two plays, sounds more like reading , third play is on another level though. Very good overall, I’ll probably listen to it again.

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  • LacyADM
  • 12-07-16

So Well Done!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this to anyone who loves Greek tragedy, and to anyone forced to read Greek tragedy against your will!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Antigone, voiced by Hayley Atwell. A strong and compassionate woman.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

Hayley Atwell's performance was enchanting. She removed all stiffness from the translation and conveyed the emotion of the character.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I listened to each of the plays in one sitting apiece. They are not the kind of stories you binge on - they are the kind you listen to and then digest as you ponder them later.

Any additional comments?

There's a reason Greek tragedy is still relevant almost 2500 years after it was written. This is a great way to introduce yourself to it, and it's also a great way to enjoy it even if you've already read and loved the works in print.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • 22-02-17

very well done.

this was a very well done work. Worth every penny. highly recommended. if you are looking for a great audio drama look no further.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eating Books for Breakfast
  • 07-06-17

Spectacular Rendition!

I have only one complaint, and that is that Michael Maloney's voice acting can be excessively melodramatic at times, but this does not diminish the fact that this is a superb performance. By Zeus, this was a great purchase!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul C
  • 05-06-17

Marvelous

Bought on a whim as a audible daily deal. These kind of productions are difficult to get right, but this one was true to the spirit and form of the work, not just the words---full of ancient wisdom worthy of one's time and reflection.
Just one man's opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Vincent
  • 27-07-16

Was truly great!

I absolutely love these plays and the cast here was great. If your buying to hear the tale for the first time or refreshing yourselves of the joy of these, this is a great buy. I personally loved the acting and I have not one bad word for Sophocles.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alex
  • 21-06-16

Outstanding for something written about 441 bc

Where does The Oedipus Plays rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

About the upper middle

What other book might you compare The Oedipus Plays to and why?

None... Oedipus was unique

Which scene was your favorite?

N/A

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No

Any additional comments?

It was an extremely well orated story. Despite being familiar with the tale, I found it to be quite entertaining. I agree with some previous posts that the musical accompaniment was distracting and annoying which explains the 4 star rating. The chorus was consistent with story structure of the period and might not be for everyone, but I got used to it. It was definitely worth the Audible credit!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • jkeramidas
  • 26-07-16

Great performance but...

Much of it sounds like it was recorded in a garage. Muted, sometimes echoing. And then there are times, particularly with the chorus that sound like a studio. Just diminished the listening experience a bit

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Zeus Baba
  • 02-09-16

mesmerizing!

such a masterful performance of the most profound tragedy of all time.
listen, read, feel every scene!

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gustavo Magalhães
  • 13-11-17

It's like listening to the plays

The performance is over the top, and there are as many actors as characters.
I recommend it to anyone who likes greek tragedies. This stories are among the best of it's kind and the performance adds a lot for the enjoyment of the plays.

Just remeber, there are 3 plays in this audiobook:
Oedipus King
Oedipus at Colonus
Antigone

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Edward
  • 14-08-17

Needs chapter headings!!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Oedipus Plays to be better than the print version?

No; you need the print version by some translator or other. Audible is never a substitute for the printed word, only a supplement.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Oedipus Plays?

When Oedipus begins to realize that he is the man he has been searching for.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

I cannot say.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Oedipus' death at the end of the second play.

Any additional comments?

YES--Audible has a very bad habit of dividing these books into "chapters," which in itself is not a problem. However, they do not give the user any help finding which "chapters" correspond to the parts of the book, and this is a problem! For the sake of other users, I will furnish this information in case you are interested in skipping to a particular play. Oedipus the King is at Chapter 1, Oedipus at Colonus starts at "Chapter" 22, and Antigone starts at "Chapter" 45. So if you wish to listen to Antigone first, skip to that "chapter" of the book. I wish I had known this in advance.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful